BY DAVE PEDERSEN
One play made all the difference for senior Jack Nelson and his Delano football team that is 4-0 after the 40-6 romp over Mound-Westonka Friday.
The one play happened five years ago when Nelson was told he would be a lineman for his eighth grade football team. In a pre-season scrimmage Nelson said he asked the coaches to give him one play at running back and “I won’t let you down.”
Nelson turned that one handoff into a touchdown and the start of a standout career as a running back. This season, Nelson has carried the ball 71 times for 661 yards and nine touchdowns, good for an average of 9.3 yards per carry.
Against Mound-Westonka, the senior rushed nine times for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Nelson scored on runs of 25, 24 and 70 yards before Tiger reserves took over in the second half of the dominating win.
Delano will face a much tougher test when going to play at Orono, 3-1 on the season. It will be a battle for the top of the Wright County Conference standings and a neighborhood rivalry.
Coach Merrill Pavlovich says Nelson has gotten stronger and runs with good balance. Success also comes from having a supporting cast with junior fullback Aaron Wagner, junior running back Brett Norling and senior quarterback Toby Hanson. Teams are unable to focus on Nelson because of so many other threats.
Credit also goes to the Tiger offensive line, according to Nelson, who says he has big holes to run through and does not have to slow down to avoid tacklers.
The offensive line includes seniors Wyatt Russek, Christian Triplett and Ben Jacobs, plus sophomores Kevin Kneisl and Walker Russek. The ends are Damon Longstreet and Adam Kraft.
Hanson was 3 of 3 passing against MW for 124 yards and a 65-yard touchdown pass to Kraft, who had two catches for 116 yards. Brett Norling gained 31 yards on four carries, providing a 15-yard scoring run. Brother Seth Norling rushed four times for 23 yards. The other touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Sawyer Thomas.
On defense, Chet Halonen recovered a fumble and Brady Miller intercepted a pass. Nate Meyer led with seven tackles, five unassisted. Carl Schaefbauer had five tackles and a sack. Triplett had four tackles and two sacks. Zach Linden was also in on four tackles.
Nelson was a starter in the backfield last year when the Tigers advanced to the section title game before losing to Becker. He says the team has what it takes to get to state, plus some leaders who know what it takes. Hanson, for example, has played in three state baseball tournaments and one state basketball tourney.
Nelson himself almost made it to the state hockey tournament, losing in the title game to Breck last season. He has played hockey since first grade and started spring lacrosse in seventh grade.
“It is hard to beat Friday night under the lights,” said Nelson about liking to play football a little more than the other sports. Both hockey and lacrosse help to improve leg work and getting around defenders.